As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. — Numbers 16:31–32
The year 2018 is important for Israel and the Jewish people as we celebrate the modern State of Israel’s 70th Birthday. You can be part of this momentous milestone with Rabbi Eckstein’s 70 devotions offered now through April 19, Israel’s Independence Day. These devotions are tied to our Keys to Israel – six fundamental principles underlying God’s covenantal relationship with His chosen people and His Holy Land using the acrostic I.S.R.A.E.L.
This devotion is part of ten devotions focusing on the letter “R” — Righteous Giving — and will explore the commandment God gave to His people as they entered the Promise Land to care for the poor and the oppressed.
Korah was an extremely wealthy man. Even today, the expression used in Hebrew to describe an affluent person is “as rich as Korah.” The Talmud says that hundreds of mules were needed just to carry the keys to Korah’s treasure houses. Legend has it that Korah was one of the wealthiest people to ever live.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon writes, “I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners” (Ecclesiastes 5:13). The Jewish sages explain that the wealth in this verse – the kind that hurts its owners – is a reference to Korah. His wealth gave Korah a false sense of security and caused him to think that he was greater than he really was. But Korah’s wealth ended up his greatest enemy. It led to his rebellion and his downfall.
The sages teach that Korah’s sons stood by his side in his rebellion. When the ground opened up, it swallowed up Korah, his sons, and all their possessions. However, the sages further teach that the sons of Korah repented while they were underground, and consequentially, they were miraculously rescued. While they were underground, they composed a powerful psalm about wealth that we still read today.
In Psalm 49, Korah’s sons write, “Do not be overawed when others grow rich . . . for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them” (Psalm 49:16–17).
Imagine this profound moment of clarity as Korah’s sons stood in-between worlds, watching their wealthy father and his prominent supporters perish in an instant. Where was their money now? All the money in the world could not buy back even a moment of life! Their money was worthless.
There is a powerful story told about a member of the famous wealthy Rothschild family. Someone asked him, “Exactly how much wealth do you have?” In response, Lord Rothschild answered, “Let me show you.” He led the man to a room and showed him many documents. They were receipts from charities that he had supported. “These,” said Lord Rothschild, “are my only true possessions. Only the money that I have given away will accompany me to the grave.”
In the end, all possessions are meaningless; only our good deeds will be with us forever. So let us convert our wealth into charity and use our possessions to do kindness. Then we will have something of true value that will be with us forever.
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